The 12th Ave restaurant at the center of a Seattle political battle over displacement was evicted and is out of business.
Its owner has passed away.
But there is still some fight in Saba.
The Ethiopian restaurant has won a victory with a key decision by the city’s Office for Civil Rights. According to a Tuesday announcement from Saba, it has become the first commercial tenant in Seattle to successfully file a discrimination complaint against a landlord/developer and that the office will take up the investigation into the allegations.
“The complaint states that the landlord engaged in differential and discriminatory treatment of the beloved owner of Saba, Workie Wubushet,” the announcement reads. “She claimed they did so by engaging in retaliatory abusive behavior, providing another tenant with greater care, respect and accommodation, whose lease expired a year prior while evicting her ‘a month’ before her lease expired and even falsely claiming she failed to pay rent.”
Wubushet died of cancer in October just months after her restaurant was evicted to make way for plans from Alchemy Real Estate and Isola Homes to demolish the property and create a six-story, 289-unit apartment building with commercial space and 11 “Live-Work Units,” plus underground parking for 230 vehicles.
The Ethiopian restaurant’s fight against displacement had been championed by District 3 rep Kshama Sawant but the eviction was still carried out..
The complaint is now being carried forward by Wubushet’s daughter, Saba Teklegiorgis.
“[The property owners] utilized the eviction process and orders to drive out businesses in the neighborhood that are minority and community-owned to make way for the apartments and bedrooms of the ‘gentry’ i.e. those who have not lived or worked in that community,” the complaint reads. “We allege that the City has a duty to put a halt to racist gentrification/eviction orders by enforcing its anti-discrimination ordinance cited above in this instance.”
The Seattle Office for Civil Rights enforces discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodation, and contracting within Seattle City Limits, according to its seattle.gov site.
Teklegiorgis is calling on the Office for Civil Rights to release the “Law Department’s Opinion Letter authorizing small businesses, restaurants, commercial establishments, and other property owners to benefit from the City’s strong anti-discrimination law” and to bring the landlords “to the table” to negotiate “a sum for Saba’s lost business and settlement offer that could cover the cost of replacement, relocation, and emotional suffering.”
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